Movie Review: The Return of the King (Theatrical + Extended) (Spoilers!)

All good stories must come to an end, some way or another, and for both the books and the film trilogy, everything does end with “The Return of the King”. Peter Jackson, his cast, and crew, continued to deliver, defying all odds and actually succeeding in doing the impossible by being able to translate a massive epic fantasy such as “The Lord of the Rings” onto the big screen. Because of this, it is no wonder why Jackson and the crew won so many awards during the Oscars that year. However, all movies have their flaws, and this one has them too. Many have complained that they felt that the film had too many multiple endings, while Tolkien purists were not happy with how some scenes were portrayed. Just like the other releases, this film also has an extended edition, which fans will definitely love, but there are just too many extra added scenes for the casual fan, save a few that should have made it to the theatrical cut. However, despite everything, “The Return of the King” is still a wonderful, emotionally charged, and visually stunning film that wonderfully wraps up this epic trilogy in a masterful way.

Return of the King
The Return of the King Movie Poster; Image Source: Amazon

“The Return of the King” picks up where “The Two Towers” left off. The story is technically divided into two perspectives, the first being what is going on in Middle Earth and the second being the journey of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) into Mordor and to Mount Doom.

Interestingly, Jackson decided to tell the story in a more chronological fashion than JRR Tolkien did, which is why the events that happened to Frodo and Sam during the book of “The Two Towers” were placed in this film, as those events were actually happening at the same time things in the first part of the book version of “The Return of the King” was happening.

This film also introduced us to the realm of Gondor, and more specifically, to Lord Denethor (John Noble), who greatly  contrasts the kind grandfather like King Theoden (Bernard Hill) of Rohan.

This film, although it was long, did have a sense of urgency in it, as this was their final stand against Middle Earth. There were plenty of great action sequences, and moments of hope in it as well.

As I mentioned earlier, the extended edition is definitely a treat for fans of the book trilogy. There are definitely some scenes here that I would have wanted to have been included in the theatrical version, but unlike “The Two Towers” and “The Fellowship of the Ring”, there were also some scenes that I felt that did have to be cut in order to stick to a shorter run time.

I also did not expect to get so emotional about this film, especially when it came towards Gollum, Frodo and Sam.

This film is also the film that I do have a lot of issues with, especially with the non-inclusion of particular scenes and the way some of the characters behaved in both versions of the film.

Howard Shore’s score for the entire trilogy is nothing short of a masterpiece. In the DVD extras, both Shore and Jackson said that they do hope that anyone who listens to the complete score will feel like they are listening an opera version of the story, and I do believe that they have achieved just that. Among the most notable pieces that Shore composed include “The Fellowship of the Ring” theme, the de facto theme of the entire film trilogy; The Shire theme that was first heard in “Concerning Hobbits” in the first film; The Rohan Themes that can be heard throughout “The Two Towers”; the Gondor Themes that are more prominent in “The Return of the King”; and all the theme songs and all the songs that were done in Elvish. It is no wonder that Shore won awards for his work, and deservedly so.

Hobbit Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson at Bag End Image Source: The Official Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy Facebook Page

Despite all the nitpicks that I did have with this film, Jackson was able to yet again deliver another piece of cinematic magic, which masterfully concluded the entire epic saga that is “The Lord of the Rings”.  And with this being the last in the trilogy, I do think of all their Academy Award wins as wins for the entire trilogy itself.  What Jackson did was no easy feat, and is something that can only be done once in a lifetime (as evidenced by the fiasco that is “The Hobbit”).

Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!


First off, I thought that Jackson’s choice to tell the story in real time, in chronological order, was a stroke of genius. By doing this, the audience wouldn’t get confused as to what’s happening, as compared to the book where certain things that were happening at the same time would be mentioned, but that would throw you off a little bit as you would have to remember what exactly is happening and where.

Everyone’s acting was spot on, and in particular, the real stand outs for me were Billy Boyd, Wood, Serkis and Astin.

As I mentioned earlier, I liked the fact that Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) and Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) got separated from each other because doing so allowed them to shine more individually. However, Boyd proved that he was up to the task, especially as he had to deal with Denethor , and fight at the same time.

Sam Frodo Gollum
(L-R) Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, Andy Serkis as Gollum and Sean Astin as Sam Gamgee; Image Source: Official The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Facebook Page

Wood’s performance as Frodo was phenomenal, especially as he had to pay close attention to truly differentiate Frodo while he has the Ring, and when he doesn’t have it and is at peace. Astin’s performance, however, was more emotionally charged, and allowed Sam to become the hero that he is. Serkis’ portrayal of Gollum is nothing but phenomenal, considering all the physical requirements the role had, and his acting which was also translated by the animators on screen.

As I said earlier, I do believe that there were some scenes in the extended version that I feel  should have been included in the theatrical edition.

Among all of them, the one that I felt shouldn’t have been removed at all was the death of Saruman (Sir Christopher Lee). Lee was offended that they didn’t include his death scene, and I completely understand why he felt that way. However, he was also happy that it was included in the extended version. I felt that this was an important scene to include as Saruman is a physically present antagonist as compared to Sauron. Also, not including the death scene makes you wonder as to what really happened to Saruman in the end. Aside from this, Lee was the biggest Tolkien fan in the cast, and a living legend, so it was a little bit offensive that it wasn’t included.

To be honest, I wish that “The Scouring of the Shire” had also been included, because it should have stood to reason that The Shire would have been affected as well. However, I can let that pass, as Saruman’s death scene was included in the extended version.

Aragorn and Anduril FB
Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and his sword, Anduril, at the Paths of the Dead Image Source: The Official Lord of the Rings Trilogy Facebook Page

I also thought that Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) revealing himself to Sauron via the palantir, the whole scene with the Mouth of Sauron, the Faramir (David Wenham) scenes, and the Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and Faramir scenes were scenes that should have been included as well.

My grievances with this film, aside from the death of Saruman not being in the theatrical version, are more about the behavior of both Frodo and Aragorn in the film.

Frodo would have NEVER turned on Sam, and Aragorn would have never slain anything, no matter how foul it was, if he or his friends were not physically attacked.

I also wish that they treated Denethor’s death better, and that they included the fact that he had been looking into a palantir as well, which caused him to give into despair, and ultimately drove him mad.

However, unlike most people, I do not think that this film had multiple endings. I think I would of this as the case if they did include the scenes that actually shot of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) visiting Fangorn Forest and Gimli visiting the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep. I do think that that the ending, with Frodo leaving Middle Earth, and Sam returning home to his wife and children is a definite ending, as we started the film with the Shire and the Hobbits, and ended there as well.

In the end, “The Return of the King” is an emotionally charged, action packed, and masterfully done conclusion to the epic saga that is “The Lord of the Rings”, although it is by no means a perfect film. However, Jackson and his crew did prove that the unfilmable can be filmed, if you have a solid plan, the vision, and the perseverance to see it through until the very end.

What did you think of “The Return of the King” and of the entire film trilogy as a whole? What did you like and what didn’t you like? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Image Source: Amazon & The Official Lord of the Rings Facebook Page







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